Practical Ecommerce

SEO Report Card: BabyGiftIdea.com

For this month, I am reviewing BabyGiftIdea.com, at co-owner Pat Laws’ request. Pat and her husband bought the business from the original owner in May 2008. The site has been online for about nine years, so it definitely has some history and credibility in the eyes of Google.

Pat shared that they have a very big problem. Specifically, during the past year and a half, sales have fallen by about 45 percent. The percentage of sales delivered by Google organic search has stayed about the same for the past year. Google search traffic, however, has been in a steady decline since mid 2007. The Laws’ implemented a website revamp with a new home page design and site restructure, yet saw very little in the way of impact. They have, for the most part, stayed true to the original owner’s product lines and pricing — with some product additions. Pat feels they may never regain the level of sales enjoyed by the previous owner. She doesn’t understand why, or how to fix it.

The situation sounds a little dire. Pat sent me a graph of her Google traffic over the 22 months, and it’s not a pretty picture. There are no spikes in there. It’s all downhill. What is going on?

Video: SEO Analysis, BabyGiftIdea.com

Home Page

For starters, it looks to me like there’s a lot of keyword stuffing going on. For example, take a look at the title tag on the home page:

Baby Gift: Baby Gift Ideas, Baby Shower Gifts, Gifts for Baby, Baby Shower Favors, Baby Gift Baskets, Baby Gifts Personalized, Baby Shower Gift Ideas, Unique Baby Gifts, Baby Names, Baby Showers

Could the word “baby” possibly be repeated any more? At least it’s not stuffed into the home page’s body copy, too. (There isn’t any body copy to speak of on the home page, by the way). “Hi, we have baby gifts, lots of baby gifts, more baby gifts than you can imagine, were you looking for baby gifts, did I mention we have baby gifts?” I made this sentence up but I wouldn’t be surprised to find something resembling it somewhere on the site.

Title Tags

Here’s another example, a title tag on http://www.babygiftidea.com/cgi-bin/baby/p/p18/Religious-Christening.html:

Christening: Baptism Gifts, Christening Gifts, Baby Baptism Gifts, Christening Outfits, Christening Dresses, Christening Invitations, Baby Christening Gifts, Christening Gift Ideas, Gifts and Christening

Again, like the aforementioned title, it’s overly long and merely a listing of keywords rather than something useful for a human that’s written in natural English. There is also a significant amount of keyword repetition. Eight mentions of “christening” and five for “gifts,” along with a two repeats of “baby” and “baptism” thrown in there for good measure qualifies as keyword stuffing by anyone’s definition.

Even more egregious is the fact that this same keyword stuffing is replicated in HTML comment tags. This is old school SEO. That tactic hasn’t worked for many years.

Ironically, one of the first phrases in the title tag appears nowhere in the copy of the page. The phrase I speak of is “baptism gifts.” So, keyword stuffing is going on behind the scenes, yet many of the keywords are absent from the body copy.

In addition, the number of links contained on these pages is as over-the-top as the keyword stuffing. On the aforementioned christening/baptism page, the SEO-Browser.com tool counts 546 links, of which 508 are internal.

Inbound Links

Speaking of links, let’s take a look at the inbound links. First stop was Yahoo! Site Explorer, which showed a decent number (987 to be exact) of in-links to the entire site (excluding BabyGiftIdea.com’s own self-referential internal links). But I noticed a number of links were from the same sites. So my next stop was SEOmoz’s Linkscape tool. That tool showed 1,130 in-links from a total of 436 domains. Though this is not horrible–but still not great by any stretch–I’d like to see thousands of domains, not hundreds. Looking at the links that comprised this number–excluding no-followed links that don’t count for PageRank but that, frustratingly, Yahoo! Site Explorer includes–I see a lot of “links” pages.

If many of the links you have garnered come from pages with the word “links” in the URL or in the title tag–and/or these links are reciprocal–you know you’re in trouble. Such links are not very valuable to start, but if the majority of your links are those types of low-value links, then your site doesn’t look credible or trustworthy in the eyes of the search engines.

So now I imagine you are getting the idea why BabyGiftIdea.com isn’t performing well in the search engines. Old-school SEO tactics become more and more dangerous (as in a search engine penalty) and ineffective over time as the engines’ algorithms evolve. I’m not surprised now by the steady decline in their success metrics.

Let’s assume that this yucky stuff gets cleaned up and the site garners valuable links earned by merit. Now what can BabyGiftIdea.com do to improve? It’s going to take more than “not spamming” to effectively vie for competitive baby-related keywords.

Report Card Graphic

Keywords

Let’s go to keywords. I see plenty of potential to target some non-obvious but valuable keywords. For instance, querying the various keyword research tools like Google AdWords Keyword Tool and KeywordDiscovery.com for search terms that include the word “baby,” I found plenty of “baby name” related keywords. Yet the site isn’t targeting them. Nor is it targeting “new baby e-cards,” “new baby checklist,” “new baby wishes,” “baby e-cards,” or “baby shower card.”

One outside-the-box phrase it appears to target is “baby shower ideas” (as you can see there is a big link on the right column of the home page underneath “Get our Newsletter”). I say, “appears to target” because it doesn’t actually target it. The link leads to a page that does not mention the phrase anywhere — not in the title tag, body copy, or non-existent H1 headline. The page has a meta keywords tag but those are worthless.

Browsing through “site:www.babygiftidea.com” search results, I noticed garbage pages in Google’s index like http://www.babygiftidea.com/cgi-bin/welcome.pl?ref=blion+page=index.html and http://www.babygiftidea.com/cgi-bin/baby/forum/display.html?mv_arg=124494. Further, I spotted duplicate copies of the home page, like http://www.babygiftidea.com/?pid=10 and http://www.babygiftidea.com/cgi-bin/baby/ (this is where the logo on the top left leads, curiously) and http://www.babygiftidea.com/?id=nsession&code=SPCAKE&pid=7&cid=3. That has to be cleaned up, too.

The site is indexed in Google, but a “site:babygiftidea.com” search in Google Product Search revealed it is not indexed there. Why not? It’s free. The Laws’ should be submitting a product feed to Google Merchant Center.

Why do all the URLs contain “cgi-bin/baby?” Surely you can get rid of that with a bit of URL rewriting. The site is running on the Apache web server software, so it should be easy to rewrite URLs using the Apache module called mod_rewrite.

Let’s end this on a positive note. I found a number of good things about the site’s SEO, too: Their mouse-overs on the left navigation are CSS-based, they have a 301 redirect from babygiftidea.com to www.babygiftidea.com, there’s intro copy on category level pages, and the domain name and website has a lot of history. Specifically, the babygiftidea.com domain is over 10 years old, and the site (according to archive.org) has been online for over 10 years too. The domain doesn’t expire until 2018, so it’s been pre-paid for the next 9 years, which further distances them from search engine spammers.

Request a site grade by emailing seo.report@practicalecommerce.com.

SEO Report Card
BabyGiftIdea.com

Home Page Content D
Inbound Links and PageRank C-
Indexation C+
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure C-
HTML Templates and CSS D
Secondary Page Content C-
Keyword Choices B-
Title Tags F
URLs B-

OVERALL GPA C-

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. Elizabeth Ball December 17, 2009 Reply

    Very interesting SEOreview, Stephan! I visited babygiftidea.com and had a few thoughts which I hope Pat and other readers find useful.

    1. The name of the website suggests it will give you "ideas" but it so far lists only products for sale. There could be a great opportunity for Pat and her husband to review new baby gifts and do write-ups, say in a new blog. These new baby gift reviews could get picked up by Google, SEO and by other blog writers (I write one at http://gifts-by-the-stars-online.com and often write about things that grab my fancy, so Pat, let me know!)

    2. In the About Us section the majority of the story is on the previous owner, with two big paragraphs about Natalie Hayes, and only one two-line paragraph about the new company which doesn’t shift the attention to them. This could be a great opportunity to show whey they bought it, about their passion for baby gifts or whatever and to get their name out there, again for SEO. Plus, it’s nice to see who you’re dealing with.

    3. The website is missing a Testimonials section. Running those lets you read what customers say about the products, feel more reassured about buying, and their surname and/or town/city can come up in SEO related to baby gifts. I have had customers say they bought my product because they recognised a friend or colleagues of theirs in the Testimonials.

    4. There’s no Contact Us section! Most shoppers (I’m one of them) like to know where the website business is located and to see if there’s a number to call if you have any problems. Again, including the address (even if it’s the post box address & phone number) will help you come up in searches for local gift suppliers. There are some customers who are willing to buy online – but only if you’re in the same vicinity so they can get in touch with you, even visit if they have to. And including your location can also attract those who need a speedier delivery within the same suburb/town, not to mention lessen shipping fees.

    Hope this helps!
    Cheers,
    Elizabeth

  2. Original Table Lamps December 18, 2009 Reply

    Interesting article…

    Elizabeth

    Point 4 above: Do you ask for testimonials specifically or just show them anyway? Are there any legal issues with showing customer testimonials without permission?

    Thanks

    Hadi

  3. Mireya Pizarro December 21, 2009 Reply

    Great article. I have been looking for such an example. This one proves to be a great article on what not to do. I have trouble in this area. How does the google keyword help you. I mean how do you decide what keywords to target because you can’t target the competitive ones.

  4. Elizabeth Ball December 22, 2009 Reply

    Hi Hadi,
    I email each customer (if I have their email address) about 2 weeks after they have received their report asking for their feedback. I make it very clear that by providing a testimonial, they are agreeing to it being included in the Testimonials section(most of them look at the section to see how it will be displayed). Something to note: you will get only a portion of customers fill out your entire survey.
    I leave out testimonials which are nameless(as they don’t want to be quoted) and those which are bland, saying only "it was great" etc as it doesn’t add anything to a potential customer’s purchasing decision.
    Cheers,
    Elizabeth